Processed foods, such as boxed macaroni and cheese, potato chips and microwaveable dinners, have been blamed for U.S. obesity rates, high blood pressure, and prevalence of Type 2 diabetes. However, argues Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, and past spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we must determine what processed really means.
Processed foods differ widely from minimally processed (such as bagged spinach and cut fruits and vegetables) to the most heavily processed (such as frozen or pre-made meals). While heavily processed foods can have a negative effect on your health, there are positives to certain processed foods. Milk and juices fortified with calcium and vitamin D are considered processed, as are pre-cut vegetables, but both can be beneficial to your health, especially when an individual is living a busy, on-the-go lifestyle.
To prevent negative health effects from processed foods, try to consume those more minimally processed, read labels, and keep an eye out for hidden sugar, sodium and fat. Sugar can be hidden in foods such as bread, added to give the appealing brown hue. Sodium is often used to enhance flavor and texture, as well as help preserve the food, but with the addition of processed foods, you can easily exceed the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation of less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Fats are added for shelf-stability, but have the capability of raising cholesterol and negatively impacting our health. Being aware of exactly what you are consuming by reading labels can help you find the nutritious, and avoid the not-so-nutritious, processed foods!
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